We pulled into the Basel Train Station, coming back from school on the tram. Jack had to pee, the train station bathroom was far off in the station basement and cost 2 francs. And there was Burger King. Verboten as far as the boys were concerned, but a potential bathroom sanctuary. So we went inside and found the bathroom on the second floor of the swankiest Burger King I’ve ever been in. It’s decorated with old photos of the Basel train station, the tables were more like a café than a fast-food joint, the lighting was friendly and it had the best view in town of the train station plaza. As we went back downstairs, I was mesmerized by posters featuring the Whopper, the special Mexican Whopper and Burger King fries, and I couldn’t resist:
“Guys, do you want something from Burger King? A tasty burger?”
Jack was noncommittal, but Adam responded “No, gross.”
Crap. Our parenting had gotten in the way of my animal brain.
Several nights later Jessica and I finally hired a babysitter and went out on the town for the first time just the two of us. We walked through the old city, down narrow cobblestone paths threading past stone apartments built in the 1400s. We ducked into a bar called Annie’s where Jessica got a beer and I got a Jagermeister shot (hey, it’s practically made locally) and a hard cider, and we toasted our adventure. We then went in search of food.
The problem with Basel at 9 pm is that a restaurant is never a quick affair: It’s a leisurely 2-3 hour commitment. But we had to be back home by 10 pm to relieve the 15-year old babysitter. We searched for a quick meal, growing hungrier and hungrier. And then I saw the Golden Arches. I don’t think I’ve eaten in a McDonalds in 14 years. But at that moment I wanted in. I yearned for the fat and salt and combinations of meat and lettuce and ketchup and French fries.
“Let’s do McDonalds!” I proposed.
“Eww, no,” Jessica responded firmly.
So, still no scratching that itch. The insidious seduction of fast food had taken hold early in my youth. Roy Rogers, Arby’s, Jack in the Box, Burger King, McDonald’s, White Castle, that siren call of burgers, french fries, salt and Coke worming into my amygdala. And now it was screaming to be satisfied.
And then I thought, an American in a foreign land: What better way to spread capitalism and the American way of life than Burger King and McDonald’s? Perhaps Ray Kroc is the truest patriot we have, the wisest CIA agent? Because it’s what people want, and once they get a taste, there’s no going back.